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Live online learning – is this the future?

As more learning providers deliver live online learning, Esther reflects on past experiences and future considerations when we are planning to invest in a platform for webinars, training and classes

‘I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.’

Maya Angelou

Before lockdown

Jisc colleagues and I have been using live online delivery for around 10 years now. We wanted an alternative to dull webinars and endless PowerPoint presentations.

We heard about the innovative approach to teaching and training being promoted by the Learning Performance Institute (LPI). Some of us gained the Certificate in Online Facilitation (COLF) and the Certificate in Designing Online Learning (CDOL).

We were a bit nervous when we started delivering webinars and workshops. It was strange not to have the participants in the room and we had to get used to interacting in different ways, using chat, icons, annotation and mics. But – we were very excited to find a new way of engaging with our members and colleagues online! We could model Active Learning methods, and our events and resources were more accessible to a wider audience.

Many people told us that this new way of delivering was great for them – an effective way of getting information, collaborating and sharing, and fun to attend. They didn’t have to travel, and they saved time and money.

During lockdown

We’ve been delivering a lot of live online workshops and webinars for the last few months. COLF principles have been at the heart of the delivery, giving participants a really high quality interactive learning experience. The aim is to inspire people to use similar interactive tools and techniques with their audiences.

Many people are now interested in the techniques and tools we can use to engage learners, delegates and colleagues using live platforms like Zoom, Teams, Adobe Connect, Blackboard Collaborate and Big Blue Button. During this time more people have become aware of the possibilities for engagement using their platforms. Audiences are beginning to expect better quality delivery in the webinars and workshops they attend.

Desk with laptop and screen
Live online delivery station – May 2020

After lockdown

There have been a number of useful articles about the impact of using live online platforms to work from home during the lockdown. Many talk about the pros and cons and the blessings and curses of online communication suggesting they are useful in many ways, but the future lies in a blend of online and face to face. Jisc’s Chris Thomson reflects on how we can improve our services by learning from our experiences.

If you plan to invest in a platform for live online delivery, here are some questions you can ask yourself and your colleagues before committing time and money:

  • What kind of sessions will you be delivering?

You might be aiming to deliver webinars, classes, training or meetings. You might want all of these.

  • What do you want your participants to be able to do during the session?

You may need a platform that supports collaboration, discussion, sharing ideas, speaking and listening, file sharing, or note taking.

  • What functions do you want to be available?

You might need chat, mics, video, annotation, screen sharing, or break out rooms.

  • Do you have funding available for the platform?

Many platforms are paid for and you will have to contact the provider or find out costs. Generally the platforms that are designed for teaching and training are paid for. These include Adobe Connect, Blackboard Collaborate, Big Blue Button and others.

Platforms that are designed for meetings and team working can have free versions or be part of your existing corporate systems. These include Zoom, Google Meet, Teams, and others.

  • Do you have resources and funding available for staff development?

Delivering live online teaching and training requires an additional set of skills on top of basic pedagogy. It feels very different to work with learners online and it’s important to build confidence and equip practitioners with the tools and techniques they need. Webinars can be delivered with participation and interaction from the audience if presenters and facilitators have the tools and skills to be creative.

Is this the future?

Learning and Development professionals have been using these tools and techniques with staff working nationally and internationally for many years. So the idea of live online delivery is certainly nothing new. But in the education sector it will undoubtedly become more widespread after our experiences during the pandemic. If we can recognise and develop good teaching methods and enable Active Learning, we can continue to improve the quality of live online delivery as part of a blended approach to lifelong learning.


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One reply on “Live online learning – is this the future?”

Such a shame that the great work from BECTA and NLN in the early 2000’s was not kept up, some fantastic learning materials, NeverWinter Nights was a world beater, but short sighted government cuts put an end to all that creative thinking when schools and colleges were starting to jump on board creating their own materials… I guess a succession of revolving door Ed Secs has not helped either!

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